Saturday, June 26, 2010

Feast of St. John the Baptist

During the years I have been resurrecting feast day traditions I keep coming across references to giant community bonfires to mark St. John's Day which is carried over from the ancient celebrations of the solstice. This would be a great idea if we had a beach cottage and could light a blaze on the sand, but we don't have one. Then I considered going out to Sauvie's Island and having a bonfire on the beach there; it would be a much shorter drive for any of our friends who wanted to join us. But June always seems to get so booked up every year.
When I bought Feast Day Cookbook it mentions an English custom of setting out a table of beers and cheeses outside one's door for drop-by guests. A porch party was much more up our alley than a bonfire, especially if it featured beer and cheese, two things that Mr. W and I love most! Mr. W has also been a longtime promoter of the notion that beer is a better partner to cheese than wine. Wine should be paired with chocolates apparently. I don't like beer and am only a recent convert to wine, so I always defer to his expertise in these matters.
Mr. W is a homebrewer, a member of the Oregon Brew Crew, and a nationally certified Master Beer Judge. Yes, our nerdiness knows no limits. This party would satisfy my wish to celebrate Catholicism and be an opportunity for him to showcase his beer knowledge. He put a lot of thought and planning into the pairings. Frankly, I think the party kind of got away from us and we spent a lot more than I thought would be possible for some beer and cheeses.
I set the table with a Provencal tablecloth we received as a wedding gift from Ms. H and Ms. B and a big, cheery arrangement of sunflowers. I had planted St. John's Wort in a container a few years ago, but it didn't survive. I'll have to try again next year because I need it for my scripture garden.We decided upon 8 pairings and served them in two shifts with lots of fruits, nuts, olives and bread to counteract the effects of too much cheese on toddler GI tracks. The following were the first 3 pairings:
  • Muenster with Reissdorf Kolsch (Cologne, Germany)
  • Tillamook sharp cheddar with Budweiser Budvar (Czech Republic)
  • Tillamook pepper Monteray jack with Laurelwood free range Red (Portland, OR)
I made little labels with the suggested pairings. Mr. W used his collection of tasting mugs accumulated from years of local beer fests. The majority of the beers we purchased at Belmont Station, which is conveniently in the neighborhood and the cheeses from Zupan's. The order in which we served the courses was from the milder beers to the more full bodied.
The next five pairings:
  • Mook Rookkaas gouda with Maredsous 8 (Moortgart, Belgium)
  • Baked double creme brie with Hopworks IPA or Alameda El Toreno IPA (both of Portland, OR)
  • Rogue River Caveman blue with Anchor Porter (San Francisco, CA)
  • Clawson Blue Shropshire with Rogue Shakespeare Stout (Newport, OR)
  • Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog with Chimay Grand Reserve (Scourmont, Belgium) or St. Bernardus 8 (Watau, Belgium)
The most anticipated course had less to do with the beer and more to do with the cheese: a baked brie. I don't know why I don't prepare this more often. I used a frozen, store bought pastry dough with a little egg wash. It is so easy yet looks so pretty and yum!The children loaded up on watermelon slices and berries, which are most fun when stuck on your fingers first before you eat them off. And what could be more fun than a drive in an old-timey car?

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